Thomas Sowell

With all the noise being made -- from traffic noise to Al Gore's ranting -- you might never suspect that there was a National Day of Silence. What you might also not suspect is that this day is observed in schools and colleges across the country, where students agree to remain silent for a day in order to show support for homosexuals.

 The idea is that people who are sexually different have been silenced by society and that the students who observe the National Day of Silence are showing that they are on the side of the gays, lesbians, etc. The schools themselves promote and cooperate with this exercise, allowing students to hand cards to their teachers when they do not respond to questions asked in class.

 Theoretically, this is a protest against the silencing of people because of their sexual orientation. But only theoretically is this about free speech.

 A sophomore at a San Diego high school discovered the hard way just how theoretical the concern about free speech is. He did not agree with the view of homosexuality being promoted by his school and wore a T-shirt that said so -- silently. Yet he was suspended.

 The front of his T-shirt said: "I will not accept what God has condemned" and the back said: "Homosexuality is shameful."

 On what grounds was he suspended? The school's speech code bans statements that promote "hate" or "violence."

 Such speech codes -- which have spread through schools and colleges nationwide  -- are nothing more and nothing less than thought control by those who want no competition against the indoctrination that they are promoting under the guise of education.

 The particular issue at any given time might be race, sex, or any number of other subjects on which there is a politically correct line -- from which dissent will not be tolerated. Disagreements about policies like affirmative action or gay marriage can be redefined as showing hatred for minorities, gays, or women -- and therefore as creating a "hostile environment" for them, impairing their learning.

 Here and there the courts have shot down some of these vaguely worded speech codes but that may just force some rewriting of the language. The real power remains with campus kangaroo courts that loosely define racism, homophobia or whatever other buzzwords can be used to justify the punishment of students who step out of line ideologically.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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